Fire: The Aftermath

When life hands you lemons, it's time to make lemonade. My glass is half full of lemonade. Always. It's the only way I can remain sane.

Since my street has become the most popular tourist attraction in town, I decided to give the looky-loos something to look at. The force is strong with this one.

So here's my public service announcement: if you don't have homeowners insurance, get some, like right now. It's so worth it. Hopefully this never happens to you, but if it does, you need this coverage. I'd be homeless and bankrupt without it. I have been completely amazed at how well everything has been handled by my insurance company thus far.

What happens when your house burns? Well, let me tell you (your results may differ)...

While the fire department does their job, if you're lucky, you'll be visited by some dude who looks like a concerned neighbor but is really just an ambulance chaser offering restoration services. While your house is still on fire. What an asshole. I was polite but eventually had to make that eyes-throwing-daggers kind of eye contact and a firm "thank you" that roughly translates to "fuck off."

The other call to make while the firefighters are busy is to the insurance company. The claims center gets the ball rolling and within minutes, you hear from an on-call adjuster who is assigned to help you through the next day or so.

After the fire department puts the damned thing out, they release the property back to you, which is their way of saying you better get someone out there ASAP board it up (if needed) because they aren't responsible for any theft if the property is unsecured.

The on-call claim adjuster was fabulous, talking me through immediate next steps (such as boarding up the house) and getting me situated. Fortunately I had my parents to fall back on, but had I not, the insurance company would have put me up at a hotel.

In my case, the house was still standing, the garage is completely destroyed, but the fire chief allowed me back into the house to get any necessary personal items. I grabbed my medicine, my phone, iPad, and a couple boxes of clothes, my laptops and one of my guitars. Mistake, everything absolutely REEKED. So it all went back the next day, except for my meds and my phone and iPad. Necessities.

All this was wrapped up at about 3am, so my parents took me back to their house to sleep, which I did not. The irony was not lost on me - I had been sleeping all day/night for 60 days due to a viral infection, but suddenly I was unable to sleep. Too much running through my head. Since I couldn't sleep, I started making lists of what was in the garage - anything I could remember because I knew everything in there (including my truck and my snowmobile) was destroyed.

The next day, my dad took me back to the house to meet with the first wave of the insurance company's response team. The first day consisted of an electrician to look over the wiring and determine where power could be restored, and two companies - the company that assesses the personal property (furniture, electronics, etc) and the company that deals with the textiles (clothing, drapes, etc).

I obviously had no idea that this was part of the process, so I have found this very interesting. Basically they assess what can be fixed (restored) and what cannot. What's not able to be cleaned is considered a loss, and I get paid for that to replace what was tossed out. What has impressed me so far is the clothes. The textile cleaning company sent a guy out who helped me look over what's what and explained what they do. They would take all of my clothes, window treatments, bed linens, bath linens, anything fabric, and clean it. If it doesn't pass my sniff test, it's guaranteed to be replaced. The first day, he asked me for anything I needed right away (this was a Saturday) so he could have it back to me by Monday. Then we'd do a little further out - on Monday I'd give him what I wanted for the next couple weeks, and they'd have that back to me by Wednesday. Then, they came and took everything out of the house and it will all get cleaned and stored until I need it. If I want something, I can call them up and they will bring it to me, wherever I am! Plus, once I'm ready to move back into the house, they'll bring everything back. All at no direct cost to me.

Electronics are being handled by the same company. Same deal - what do I need right now, what can wait, just call and tell them what I need and when, and they bring it out. So far, everything has been cleaned so well, I can't smell any of the smoke that was stuck to any of this stuff!

Furniture and other knickknacks are the same drill - taken out of the house, cleaned, stored, returned when I need it. Nice!

On Monday following the fire, the insurance company sent out their fire investigator to look things over and see if he could determine if there was another third party responsible for anything (such as a faulty product that shorted out and caused the fire). The exact cause of the fire is not known, but it's been determined that it was not arson (it was an accident), and the source of the fire was in the corner of the garage, which is where I had a wastebasket next to the door.

The fire chief dropped by (because he had left his gloves in the house the day after the fire), so he talked with the fire investigator, and he also gave me some good tips on things to do when I rebuild...such as drywalling the ceiling in the garage. My garage was open to the rafters - I didn't know any better, that's just how the house was built. Because it was open, that enabled the fire to easily get into the attic, which caused a ton of damage. In the photo below, you can see where the fire penetrated into the main attic, as well as the sad result of my favorite double-booted slalom ski that was up in the rafters.

The fire chief also recommended installing a heat sensor in the garage (smoke detectors in a garage are useless with vehicles). He is a really nice guy, so once I get back to normal, he offered to walk me through some more things that I can do to better protect myself, and I am going to take him up on that. Tip - go to your local fire department and ask them for recommendations on how you can protect your home! They're more than happy to help!

Then comes more of the insurance company's platoon - a company to help me arrange temporary and long-term housing, the company to inventory the items that will be called a loss, contractors to estimate the damage for the insurance company, the auto adjuster (because my truck and snowmobile were both destroyed), the towing company to take away my truck and snowmobile...the list goes on. I will admit, I had some feels when I watched the flatbed take away my babies (my truck and my sled). So, I had the tow truck dude pull off my front license plate as a souvenir.

The bottom line is that everything is being taken care of, and I don't have to lift a finger to clean a damned thing!

I continue to count my lucky stars. I'm so grateful to the neighbor who stopped and got me out of the house, the neighbors who gave me shoes, clothes, coats, blankets, water while the fire burned, my family, my friends, and my insurance company who has really taken the stress out of this whole situation.

And, the other great news is that as of Thursday, I feel NORMAL. For the first time in over two months, I feel like ME again, which is awesome.  This virus has finally run its course and gone dormant. I am excited to get back to work on Monday and get back to a somewhat normal routine...

Shout out to my favorite parents, who have taken me in and put a roof over my head...I'm so grateful for their love and support, which is always there but much needed during this crazy time. They're the best!